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Bush's Foreign Policy Legacy


We have been covering the life and legacy of President George H.W. Bush today. We look now at his relationship with his adopted home state of Texas. We're going to turn to NPR's Wade Goodwyn, who's based in Dallas. Wade, thanks so much for being with us.

WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: He was not a man born in Texas. He didn't have the accent that his sons acquired in their lives. But Houston was his home for decades. Tell us about his relationship.

GOODWYN: Yes, it was an interesting relationship. I mean, you know, he was antithetical in some ways - you know, a Northeasterner whose father was a senator, Prescott Bush. He went to Yale and then decided to come to West Texas to make his fortune in the oil business. You know, he ran for Congress...

SIMON: I notice you don't say bidness (ph). But go ahead.

GOODWYN: (Laughter) I don't say business. Molly Ivins does or did. But yes - no. And, you know, he ran for Congress twice. But, you know, he really was a man of Washington, D.C. - CIA director, vice president, U.N., you know, famous diplomat. It was only after he'd ended his career in Washington, D.C., and came home to Texas that he slowly but surely over the years became more and more beloved. And, you know, his resume was so incredible - his service during World War II - that you could not help respect the man. And Texans over time really came to love George H.W. Bush.

SIMON: Well, and he was very active, wasn't he, in Texas?

GOODWYN: Yes. I mean, you know, it's so interesting. He became close - very close to Bill Clinton after he had been beaten by Clinton. And after Clinton left office, the two of them began to partner around the world, became kind of this - the face - the bipartisan face of rescue efforts to places that have been devastated by natural disasters - tsunamis and earthquakes. And it was part of his way of seeing the world that I think was formed during World War II. That greatest generation, they could never get away from the notion that we were all in this together as Americans. And what bound us together really was much more powerful than what separated us.

SIMON: Of course President Bush ran for office a number of times in Texas. He lost some races, and he won some races, wanted to be senator, as I recall. That never quite worked out. Of course he did serve in Congress. What kind of legacy does he have in Texas politics that you can see today?

GOODWYN: Well, I - you know, he had watched as California went from Ronald Reagan country to pure Democratic country. He blamed the Republican Party's relationship with Hispanic immigrants. And the Bush family was determined not to make that mistake in Texas. And they did not. I mean, his son easily got 40 percent of the Hispanic vote as governor when he ran for governor. He repeated that feat when he ran for president.

I mean, courting the Texas Hispanics became part of the Bush family ideology. And the Republican Party has really gone away from that. So I think that politically, the legacy of the Bushs in Republican politics is, you know, less than than what it had been because the Republican Party has moved so far - firmly away from the Bushs' vision of relationships with Hispanics.

SIMON: He jumped out of a plane to celebrate his birthday when he was - what? - in his 80s and 90s?

GOODWYN: Yeah. Let me tell you a quick story. You know, he fought in Chichijima, which is the sister island of Iwo Jima. He was shot down in his plane and was rescued by a submarine. And he went back in 2002. And in Japanese, soldiers he fought against told him they were amazed to see the efforts that the American Navy did to rescue him, that that never would have happened if a Japanese fighter had been shot down. And I think that formed his vision of himself and the country for the rest of his life.

SIMON: NPR's Wade Goodwyn with us in Dallas today talking about president - former President George H.W. Bush, who has died at the age of 94. We'll have continuing coverage today. Wade, thanks so much for being with us.

GOODWYN: It was my pleasure.

(SOUNDBITE OF PAUL KELLY'S "BLOWFLY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.